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Greece Pilgrims

By July 27, 2023No Comments

Γειά σου (YAH-soo) Hello from the Greece Pilgrims! Our time in Greece was beautiful, thought provoking, magical, hard and unforgettable! There were 8 teen pilgrims between 14 – 16 years old as well as 3 adults. Each night a pilgrim wrote a blog about our day for their families. I thought the best way to tell the congregation about our trip would be to share some excerpts from the pilgrims themselves! Enjoy and thank you all for your endless support and prayers!

Hi all, I (Heather) am on blog duty tonight! Traveling was very smooth, and we only had a few hours delay, but we were already on the plane to Athens so stress levels were low! We arrived in Athens, and had a tapas meal, and then checked into our hotel. We met with Ilias our guide in Athens and Lesbos, and discussed the schedule and migration, as well as the recent boat crisis. We then walked to where Paul gave his speech of the unknown God and climbed up some rocks to a spectacular view of Athens and the Parthenon. We are all resting in air conditioning now, and then we will head to dinner. A highlight for me was what the kids were looking forward to when we get to Lesvos, they all are very interested in learning more about the refugee crisis and meeting refugees as well as the people working with them. We are hoping to make some connections and to do some listening as we try to navigate the situation in our own country. everyone is exhausted, but in wonderful spirits! Loving this group!!

The day began with a cheerful breakfast of eggs and toast topped with the casual donkey to the side. We waited for the bus which would eventually take us into the refugee centers, we talked about our highs and lows of the trip so far, (mostly consisting of sleep and food). We arrived at the first center and as we walked in we were surrounded by clothes and supplies. We talked with volunteers and refugees whom had been in Greece for a while and heard terrible stories of travels, and those of whom’s travels had been ended. After this powerful talk, we moved to the painting room where we saw amazing paintings from refugees of the camp. We all talked and after a short “business deal” we walked away with two new paintings for the church library. After this we went to the next center where we were met with music, circus and all sorts of fun. After staying a while however we discovered that this was to keep the true situation out of the minds of the refugees which visited. After picking carrots in the garden and eating a pasta lunch, we headed back to the hacienda and thought about the day. After a short nap, we travelled back near the camp to have a 4-course meal with some stories along with it. These tales were told by a local named Nick who donated almost all of his belonging to refugees including his house! After these inspiring stories we headed back and had a talk about the day. And now we go to bed?

Today, we first went on a bus ride, while listening to a very intense and important podcast about Brandon, who saved a baby from a (refugee) boat.

We were going to a very important church of orthodox, and many people got pictures- some nuns arrived and started chanting while we were finished looking through.

After we finished visiting the church, we had some Greek Orthodox donuts in 3 flavors, and after that we went to Skalasykominas where we walked around the village and visited an about 100-year-old small church. We went to a seafood restaurant and held a competition for who could eat the most food. Also, people discovered fish eyeballs (and at the end of the day every pilgrim had eaten at least one)!

(Heather) Not sure if you are following the news about the Titanic sub, which is an incredibly tragic story. One of the NGO volunteers mentioned that the whole world has come together to find these millionaires- as they should- but there is still at least a boat a day landing on Lesvos and 2-3k people languishing in the refugee camp – yet that garners no media coverage anymore. We have had a few conversations about this and about why we think this is the case. We will visit the burnt camp of Moria tomorrow and speak with survivors- the pilgrims are really handling all this information and these experiences well even though they are very hard to process. The guys running our group from Atlas Workshop are phenomenal and are very good at debriefing with them. Stacy and Mike have planned some excellent devotions as well that bring in the Christian piece beautifully.

First thing of the day was a trip to the former refugee camp, Moria.  It was an enlightening tour that I’m sure I cannot fully sum up in the short amount of words I can use.  After that we headed to an art center called Mosaik where refugees can go to relax and create art. Our group made a mosaic out of markers to be hung in a local hospital. (The art was in the shape of The Four Winds. The director wanted us to make a piece of art native to where we come from.)  Lunch was wraps from a restaurant run by a Syrian refugee and some pastries.  Afterwards we headed to the airport.  We got dinner and then most of us headed on a walk to the white tower and along the boardwalk.  Then we ended our day with devotions.

Today, we started off the day by eating breakfast at our hotel, which started at 7am. We then met our tour guide named Effie at 8:30 and started our long bus ride to the city of Philippi. The bus ride took around 2 hours and Effie talked about the history behind the buildings, old churches , landscapes, that we passed on our ride. We then first arrived at a chapel which commemorates the location where Lydia was baptized. On the inside of the chapel, there was art which told the story of Paul and Lydia. We then rode to the Philippi Archaeological Site, where we saw the ruins of the fallen city. Our guide gave us the background of what the ruins were back when the village was operating and the history of what Paul did in this village. We ate lunch at the site and then headed back to the bus. Our final stop on the tour was a short stop at Kavala to see a monument of Paul. We finally took the bus ride home where people enjoyed the landscape, took a nap or played cards! Everyone then had free time for a while, then had the choice of going out for dinner or eating at the hotel restaurant. At the restaurant out in the city, there was a drawing contest which took place! We then headed back and got ready for bed.

Mike here. Heather’s phone took a swim in to the Gulf of Krissa and is currently drying out in a bag of rice.

We started our day in the heights of Meteora and looked at the outside of several monasteries. We thought about what passion it would take to live in a cave for 30 years. And what our own passions might be. Meteora is special place. We then went to Delphi, another special place. This archeological site is situated high on the side of a steep valley. Peaks rise up above and the valley spreads out below. Some pilgrims chose to go for a swim in Galaxidi. Other pilgrims join stacy and me on a walk to the archeological museum and around the ancient site of Delphi. What an awesome place!

Stacy and I feel blessed that we could share this pilgrimage with your children. We have both learned a lot about Greece, the refugees, and the travels and influence of Paul. But most importantly we have gotten to learn more about and from each of your children. This has been a life-changing experience for us, too, and thank you for letting us be part of it.